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It is a rare instance, indeed, when a first-year professional ballplayer inspires the creation of a new rule. But ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte has done just that.
Venditte, the 20th-round pick of the New York Yankees in this June's Draft, received national attention after making his debut with the Staten Island Yankees June 19. With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth inning, switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez came to the plate representing the Brooklyn Cyclones' last hope. What resulted was a moment of high comedy: Henriquez entered the batters box batting right-handed, so Venditte switched his glove to his left hand. Henriquez then decided to bat lefty, so Venditte switched his glove back to his right.
And on and on it went. After a prolonged delay, Henriquez was ordered to bat right-handed. He then struck out on four pitches to end the ballgame.
In order to avoid such incidents in the future, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) released its official rules for dealing with ambidextrous pitchers on Wednesday. These guidelines were reached after PBUC staff consulted with a variety of sources, including the Major League Baseball Rules Committee.
At the heart of the new guidelines is the following provision:
The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.
"The basis for the rule is that everything the batter does, he does so knowing what hand the pitcher is going to throw with," explained PBUC executive director Justin Klemm. "He may not know what type of pitch is going to be thrown, or its location, but he does know which arm will be used. A manager selects a pinch-hitter based on that knowledge, and that is also how a switch-hitter determines which side of the plate he is going to bat from."
The guidelines also permit both the batter and pitcher to change positions (from right-handed to left-handed or vice versa) once per at-bat.
"We don't anticipate that being an issue, but official playing rules allow that to happen in a normal situation," said Klemm. "Not allowing it to happen in situations involving an ambidextrous pitcher would be going against a previously established rule."
Like virtually all baseball rules, these "Venditte Guidelines" are sure to spark some arguments regarding their fairness to both batter and pitcher.
"That's the way it is in baseball. Very few rules are airtight, where there's no room for debate," said Klemm. "This will create some interesting conversations, and that's fine. Our primary goal was simply to be as fair as possible to everyone involved."
The new rules regarding ambidextrous pitchers are as follows:
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.